Skip to content

Canadian high court refuses to recognize privilege for journalists

Post categories

  1. Protecting Sources and Materials
The Supreme Court of Canada last week ruled that journalists do not have a universal right to protect the identity…

The Supreme Court of Canada last week ruled that journalists do not have a universal right to protect the identity of their sources and said that such a privilege should instead be applied on a case-by-case basis, the Toronto Star reported.

The case began when police asked for a forged document received by the National Post in order to identify its source for possible criminal proceedings. The paper and reporter fought the search warrant and cited a privilege for journalists.

The Supreme Court’s decision found that while the freedom of expression provision did not create a constitutional right for journalists, such a privilege could be applied on case-by-case basis by using a balancing test, which weighs the public’s interest in protecting the identity of the source against the seriousness of the crime under investigation.

The opinion expressed reluctance to grant constitutional immunity to an "ill-defined group of writers and speakers and whichever ‘sources’ they deem worthy."

In speaking with the Toronto Star, the president of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression refused to see the decision as negative, citing this case as a "significant step forward" because the court did recognize that privilege existed in some cases.